This is the second part of my selection from Raw Wine London 2018, the first part of which precedes this article. Here we have eleven more producers from the weekend before last’s event at The Store on London’s Strand. All but one are from Europe this time, it’s just the way things worked out I’m afraid. What I can say is that if you read on you’ll find one or two old favourites, but equally, some exciting new estates.
Finally, at the end of the Fair, I tasted some excellent Sake. Many readers will know of my interest in Japan, but I’m no expert when it comes to this wonderful product. Tasting such a wide range of styles here certainly broadened my knowledge and appreciation.
MEINKLANG (Burgenland, Austria)
Meinklang definitely fall into the “old favourites” category, and I’d without doubt place them in my own very subjective list of my favourite half-dozen Austrian producers. Their mixed farm is at Pamhagen, south of the Neusiedlersee, right by the border with Hungary.
What do I need to say for the few readers who do not already know Meinklang? Well, all their farming activities are biodynamic, they are at least as famous for their beef cattle in Austria itself, they make some wines from vines left wild (Graupert) and some in concrete eggs (Konkret), and they also have vineyards in Hungary, on the amazing volcanic cone of Somlò.
I know the whole range reasonably well, and have written about these wines many times, so I will concentrate on just four. Foam White 2017 is the new version of their excellent petnat. It’s actually more of a peach skin colour, rather than white. You have to revel in its cloudy frothiness, and freshness abounds. It’s a delicious wine, but there’s a variant on this petnat, Foam Somlò 2017. Here we have a wine with low pressure (around 1.5 to 2.0 bar), so that it is just slightly fizzy. The straight Foam is often made from Pinot Gris, but this Somlò version is 60% Hárslevelü and 40% Juhfark, two of the classic varieties on the Somlò massif. Fruity and soft but dry, this is exceptional petnat.
There’s a red version too, simply called Foam Red (2017). This sample was actually drawn from wine still fermenting, and it needs another two-to-three months. It’s an unusual blend of Gamaret and Blaufränkisch. Gamaret is a cross between Gamay and Reichensteiner, very common in Switzerland, especially in the vineyards of Geneva. It’s not a variety I’ve come across in Austria but here it adds a lot of fruit and a light touch. The wine is inky dark and Gamaret’s partner in the blend adds a touch of bitter, peppery spice. Even at this stage it’s delicious.
As well as their more elevated still wines, Meinklang produces a superb range of simpler varietal wines from their 70 hectares under vine. I’ve often come across these in restaurants specialising in vegetarian food, where they are an instant “go-to” on the wine list. But this wine is a blend I’ve not tried before. Blauburger-Pinot Noir 2017 isn’t in fact on the market yet, but for a simple wine it’s quite majestic. It’s just delicious Pamhagen fruit, vinified simply. Whilst the Graupert wines are a little different and the concrete eggs make wines of genuine energy, don’t discount trying Meinklang’s range of simple varietals and blends when you want something a bit cheaper.
Meinklang wines are available via Winemakers Club and one or two other retailers and importers.
ALEXANDER AND MARIA KOPPITSCH (Neusiedlersee, Austria)
Of all the Austrian producers at the wine fairs I go to, the Koppitsch family are perhaps one of the least well known in the UK. If I was attracted to their stand last year by some of their attractive labels, it was their beautiful wines which won me over. The wines are made biodynamically, and they are also proudly vegan (as all true natural wines will be).
The Koppitsch vineyards are right up to the north of the lake, at Neusiedl-am-See. The family has been farming here for 500 years, and Alex took over 5.5 hectares of vines in 2011. The aim is above all to express terroir through largely single-vineyard wines. There is no cellar manipulation, aside from a small amount of sulphur at bottling only for some of the “Authentisch” range (the orange wines see no added sulphur). As these wines are less well known, I’ll zip through all the wines Maria and Alex’s sister, Anna, had available to taste.
Zweigelt authentisch 2016 – dark, dense colour, sappy bitter cherry with good concentration and no added sulphur. 12.5% abv. The authentisch cuvées are all vinified either in stainless steel or old large wood, with the aim of leaving in the wine “lots of mineral character” and clean bright fruit. That’s what you get here. I’m a massive fan of Zweigelt like this.
Rot No 3 authentisch 2015 – a blend of Zweigelt, Blaufränkisch and St Laurent, a little less densely coloured than the pure Zweigelt but in the same vein.
Welschriesling Maischevergoren 2016 – skin fermented Welschriesling, two weeks on skins. It’s fruity and a little herby at the same time. The vines here are over 40 years old, off the famous limestone of the region, which is proving not only to be a perfect terroir for the Blaufränkisch variety, but proving here (and with others) that it makes for fascinating orange wines as well.
Gemischter Satz Maischevergoren 2016 – this is the Gemischter Satz blend turned orange. Although Vienna is the famed location for Gemischter Satz, with its very own DAC, the traditional field blend style can be found all over Austria. There are fifteen varieties in this cuvée, all picked together and fermented together. As is often the case, some varieties have never been identified. It’s a single site, planted in 1934 and rented by Alex. This is delicious, spicy, savoury, with a umami edge. A wonderful alternative GS.
Weissburgunder unfiltriert 2016 – stone fruits, a touch of apricot perhaps, great mouthfeel and texture.
Blaufränkisch unfiltriert 2015 – two yerars in eight-year-old barrique, there’s a lot of structure and depth, making a wine which will age well. There is some of the richness of the vintage, but with none of the wine’s definition taken away.
Pretty Nats 2017 – this is a Blaufränkisch petnat vinified pink, with no sulphur added. Off limestone, some of the qualities of the variety vinified red come through. It’s basically dry and packed with fruit. On my list! They also make versions from Pinot Noir and St Laurent, I believe.
Grüner Veltliner 2017 – amazing fruit, a kind of soft and gentle pineapple. A “must try” wine, if I can find a bottle.
Sauvignon Blanc – I think this was a 2017. The nose seemed a little reductive to me, but the palate was really concentrated. It was nicely balanced, not too much acidity.
I also tried a very pale Rosé autentisch 2017 blending the usual Burgenland triumvirate of Blaufränkisch, St Laurent and Zweigelt, which had an adorable sweet scent, and finally Zweigelt 2015. This had seen two years in 500 litre oak, and has a truly concentrated bouquet.
When I met the Koppitschs last year they had no UK importer, but they have since been picked up by Jascots. They deserve to begin to become much better known in the UK.
MAGULA FAMILY WINERY (Malokarpatská, Slovakia)
Vladimir and Lucia Magula’s wines were completely new to me, but I’m pleased to hear that they are joining the excellent Basket Press Wines portfolio very soon. They farm six hectares on alluvial soils and chalk and they don’t buy in any fruit. Their plan is to aim for expansion to 15 hectares, in a region of very low rainfall, which lies to the southeast of Czech Moravia. Their vines lie in two valleys, one producing wild wines (hence “wolf”) and the other, more gentle wines (“rose”).
Welschriesling 2016 is vinified in stainless steel on fine lees for seven months, bottled with only 14 mg/l of sulphur. It’s very characterful, but a gentle wine.
Oranzový vlk 2016 (orange wolf) is their only orange wine, with a nice label painted by Lucia’s sister. It blends a third each of Welschriesling, Grüner Veltliner and Devin (an autochthonous variety). It has a lovely bouquet and the kind of unusual and fascinating personality which has to be tried.
Frankovka 2014 was the first vintage of their Blaufränkisch I tasted. 2014 was as cold and wet in Slovakia as in Austria, but this is developing nicely as a subtle fruited red. Apparently it didn’t taste as they had wished a year ago, but in the last twelve months it has blossomed. The 2015 version is also very good, but different. It was actually an unsulphured sample (because adding sulphur would have put the sample totally out of balance for tasting at Raw). The fruit here is really good, without any overweight characteristics of a very hot vintage.
Frankovka “unplugged” 2015 is made from the same grapes but they are never touched by anything mechanical. Stems are included in the fermentation and it is aged on lees, giving a wine of gentle cherry fruit with a dusting of pepper. Vladimir said this is his “dearest baby”.
Carboniq 2017 is a youthful and simple wine made from Blauer Portugieser by carbonic maceration. Expect a Gamay-like red of 10.5% abv with very juicy, sappy, fruit. We will be tasting a Czech Blauer Portugieser later, but this part of Slovakia is well known as home for a variety which sounds as if it should be grown a long way to the west.
As a first foray outside the Czech Republic, the Magula wines will be a really excellent addition to the Basket Press Wines list.
BATIČ (Vipava, Slovenia)
Miha Batič carries on the tradition of 16th Century monks who made wine from this property at Sempas, near Nova Goricha in Western Slovenia, not far from the Italian border.
Only three Batič wines were on show, and I tasted the Batič Rosé 2015 and Angel Batič Rezerva 2011. The former is made from Cabernet Sauvignon and comes in one of the most unusual bottles on the market . It’s a shape that only a photo can describe (see below), rather like something I might come up with if I attempted to fashion a fluted bottle shape on a potter’s wheel. It doesn’t please everyone, but from experience I know it gets quite complex as it ages (I’ve purchased it a couple of times before as well as tasting at previous Raw events).
Angel Rezerva is the classic wine from Batič, a very special wine from a unique terroir. The Vogersko Hill near Brdce is surrounded by forest and well protected. Low yields produce a concentrated orange wine from around 40% Pinela, 20% each of Chardonnay and Malvazija, and lesser amounts of Retula, Laški Rizling, Zelen and Vitovska. Apple pie with ginger comes to mind. It’s a wine with immense potential to age.
I used to buy these wines from another source, but I see they are now imported by an agent I don’t know, World in Bottles.
DOBRÁ VINICE (Moravia, Czech Republic)
The USP for Petr Nejedlik’s wines is his five buried, unglazed qvevri of 1,000 litres capacity, although some wines are also made in oak barrels. Petr was the first winemaker in the Czech Republic to make wine in these amphora. Although uncertified, Petr uses organic methods and some biodynamic preps. The vineyards are mostly in the Podyji National Park, around Znojmo.
I began by tasting a nice blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir (vinified white) called Quatre Cuvée 16 (2016) before moving on to a couple of more serious orange/skin contact wines. Velinské Zelené Qvevri Georgia 2012 sees nine months maceration on skins in qvevri. There’s plenty of texture resulting, but also amplified fruit acids, so the wine has a refreshing quality. Chardonnay Qvevri Georgia 2013 has a similar vinification, but is bigger in the mouth, with even more texture. Both wines benefit from age here.
Kambrium Cuvée 2014 is an attractive savoury blend of Veltlin (Grüner), Rizlink (Rhine Riesling) and Sauvignon Blanc. You get a hint at the qualities of each component, where the fruit is gooseberry, the spine is firm and the seasoning is pepper. I had already enjoyed this wine this year at the Plateau Brighton Tasting of Moravian wines (2 February article).
I missed out on the petnat, a blend of 60% Pinot Noir with Rhine Riesling…it was sadly all gone. I did however enjoy Petr’s Blanc de Blancs 2015 which he makes from Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris, very fruity. My knowledge of Czech sparkling wines grows by the week, and there is a lot of potential, it seems.
Last up, VDC 2015. Velké Dobré Červené is a late harvest wine made from Pinot Noir, Zweigeltrebe and Frankovka (Blaufränkisch), with the Pinot Noir vinified in qvevri and the other varieties in oak. It’s a red of structure, tannin and concentration. It wasn’t my immediate favourite from this excellent producer, but I’d like to try it with a bit more age. It so obviously has more to give.
Dobrá Vinice are on the roster of Basket Press Wines, of course.
VINARSTVI JAROSLAV OSIKA (Moravia, Czech Republic)
Jaroslav Osika is one of the founders of the natural wine movement in Moravia. The winery is tiny, with just 3 hectares under vine at Velké Bílovice in the far south of Moravia (we are 45km southeast of Brno and 80km northeast of Vienna). He doesn’t speak a word of English, and although these wonderful wines speak for themselves, I was pleased to have Jiri of Basket Press Wines on hand to translate.
I really do love this producer. It is probably in part because the techniques used here, long ageing in tandem with oxidative winemaking, remind me so much of the wines of the Jura Region in France. But there is nothing copycat about them.
Chardonnay 2012 is left on skins for six months, after which the juice stays on gross lees for a while before two years on fine lees in an old barrel. The wine shows 14% alcohol and is extremely rich (2012 was a warm vintage here). The oxidative quality is very much to the fore.
Modry Portugal 2016 is an Osika wine I tasted at Plateau Brighton at the beginning of February. Modry Portugal is the Moravian name for the Blauer Portugieser grape we came across in Slovakia (Magula’s “Carboniq”, above). It’s made in used wood, but then goes into fibreglass tanks, which helps retain freshness before bottling. Deep colour, crunchy fruit, a bit denser than the previous version of the variety, this is maybe a wine to glug slightly cool, or to pair with charcuterie and olives. I actually liked it even more on second meeting.
Pinot Gris 2015 starts its vinification with three days on skins in large oak (10% unbroken grapes are then added), is left for two-to-three months, then aged 21 months on lees. It is delicious. There’s no bitterness, just amplified fruit turned up to “11”.
Pinot Chardonnay 2014 is 60% Chardonnay/40% Pinot Gris, an interesting blend made slightly nutty in an oxidative style. Jaroslav then pulled out a couple of younger Chardonnays from 2013 and 2014. The 2013 was fresher, from a cooler vintage. It made a nice contrast to that rich 2012. For me it’s good to see each vintage appearing different to the others. What matters is what nature gives, not what the winemaker imposes. This is Jaroslav’s philosophy, but also that of all great winemakers.
Last of all there was a Gewurztraminer 2016, the youngest wine from Osika. It showed plenty of varietal character on the nose, but is much more mineral and less floral than what one might expect from Gewurz. It seems effectively dry, but there is a touch of richness as well. Alcohol comes in at 13%.
DOMAINE LIGAS (Macedonia, Greece)
Jason Ligas is the winemaker at what is very much my favourite Greek estate, but the wines are generally shown by his sister Meli, who lives in Paris. There are five autochthonous varieties grown: Assyrtiko, Kidonitsa, Xinomavro, Limniona and Roditis. Super-natural, Jason farms using the “Fukuoka” method (after Japanese farmer-philosopher Masanobu Fukuoka) of so-called “no-act” science. The vines are pretty much left to do as they wish (no tilling of the soil, no sprays etc) on the beautiful Paiko Mountain in this part of Northern Greece.
I tasted six wines this year. Kydonitsa Barrique 2015 sees a month’s maceration on skins, producing a deep orange wine which combines both texture and genuinely thrilling freshness. Roditis Barrique 2015 is a bit less orange, and even fresher all round. Very exciting stuff.
Xi-Ro 2015 is made from very gently extracted Xinomavro giving a red that is deliberately low in tannins, intentionally “drinkable” and in this context a total success. Pata Trava 2016 is a very different take on Xinomavro – as an orange(ish) wine. It’s quite dark in colour, perhaps as this was a warm vintage, even though it was directly pressed. But it only has 12.5% alcohol, and I was thrilled to find a bottle of this at the Burgess & Hall popup shop.
Lamda 2016 is a skin contact Assyrtiko (which is generally my favourite Greek red variety). It only sees four hours on skins before fermentation, but the vines are grown on pergolas. This makes for thin skins and the pigment is concentrated, so it doesn’t take a lot of extraction to get the colour. A fascinating “Vin de Table”.
Finally, a sip of Bucéphale 2016, presumably named after Alexander the Great’s beloved horse? This is a Xinomavro once again, but here vinified so as to make the kind of Xinomavro you are more likely to have come across. After a year in barrel it is a dark and concentrated red with amazing scents of olives and tasting of dark summer fruits. It’s only made in the best vintages.
Every wine from Ktima Ligas is different, and every one I have so far tasted is a gem. These are special wines, even in the context of all of the producers at Raw. They are part of the very dynamic portfolio at Dynamic Vines.
VINOS AMBIZ (Sierra de Gredos, Spain)
Fabio Bartolomei, son of Italian parents who emigrated to Scotland, is one of my favourite small “Spanish” wine producers, and if you read my Blog anything like regularly you’ve probably read a good bit about him already. No chemicals are used in either vineyard nor winery (which happens to be the big old co-operative cellar at El Tiemblo, which I imagine dwarfs Fabio’s small operation).
Fabio champions some very little known local varieties (like Doré, Malvar and Chelva along with Airén and Albillo), but he also uses more famous international and Spanish varieties (Sauvignon Blanc, Tempranillo, Garnacha). He’s also keen on amphora. When I somewhat ignorantly asked him where he sources these terracotta vessels, he told me they are just lying around the village. El Tiemblo used to have a amphora factory, which closed down in the 1950s. Apparently he picks them up fairly cheaply.
There were a lot more wines on taste than the three listed in the event catalogue. Anything here is worth grabbing if you see them on a shelf (Otros Vinos is the importer, or try Furanxo near Dalson Junction on Dalston Lane, or Burgess & Hall over in Leytonstone/Forest Gate, E7).
Malvar has a ten day skin maceration before going into amphora, and has decent tannic structure, even for an orange wine. Sauvignon Blanc makes a unique wine. Two weeks maceration before amphora, very high-toned with a herbal, even medicinal (but in a good way)…I did say unique, emphatically so.
Airén 2016 has a less dangerous personality for the more sensitive drinker. It has no skin contact and is made in stainless steel. Doris 2016 is one of my personal favourites (unfortunately it’s currently the only Ambiz wine I own). Made from the Doré variety, it gets just two days on skins in stainless steel and it has a slightly bitter texture. Nice label too!
Or do I prefer Alba? Two days on skins here is supplemented by amphora ageing. You get herbs, butterscotch and a lot more. It sounds unusual, and it is, but it’s also sheer genius if you just go with it.
The New Wave Girl 2017 is my first taste of this new wine. 90% Albillo and 10% Malvar, two days on skins again and then six months in amphora. It was one of the best wines on the stand. But it was topped by the craziest juice I drank all day, Tempranillo Carbonica 2016. It almost tastes like very funky fruit juice more than wine, but totally concentrated. I thought I’d bagged the last bottle at Burgess & Hall, but I stood aside for an Aussie whose birthday it was, and he was flying home the next day. Hoping one will come my way soon!!!
Finally, Garnacha 2016, a single vineyard wine fermented in stainless steel and aged in old oak for ten months. Proof that Fabio can turn his hand to something relatively traditional as well as the edge of the world stuff. I’m sure he’d think I was nuts to say it, but there’s certainly a touch of genius about Fabio’s winemaking. And bags of creativity too.
CLOT DE LES SOLERES (Catalonia, Spain)
Clot de les Soleres is the creation of Carles and Montse Ferrer, who took over family vineyards on the edge of the Valls de l’Anoia, not far from Barcelona, in 2008. They make a range of wines, specialising somewhat in a variety of petnats where they let the fermentations do their own thing. Nothing is done in the winery, pretty much, and certainly no sulphur is added.
Xarel-lo 2014 is a delicious example. It’s more like a still wine with a little CO2. The 2015 version didn’t even finish fermenting so it has some residual sugar, off-dry but with a spine running through it giving some tautness.
Don’t particularly expect “varietal definition” from Chardonnay 2015, but it does have fruit underpinning an intense mineral character. Macabeu 2014 is very fruity, whereas the same 2015 has a tiny bit of CO2 in the bottle and a little residual sugar. It’s very fresh, and makes a pleasant and interesting contrast to the character of the Xarel-lo wines.
I tasted two wines made from the French interloper here. Cabernet Sauvignon Anfora 2015 is actually fermented in stainless steel before being introduced into amphora for 13 months. It has a really interesting take on the usual Cabernet bouquet, a sort of iron filings and blackcurrant blend of fruit and spice. Round, rich, fairly tannic and 14% abv.
Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé 2015 is very different, and also very appealing (to me, but my wine tastes get more debauched by the day). Off-dry and frothy, and even better than the off-dry Xarel-lo “Ancestrale” I had from these guys a week or so ago. As far removed from the Bordeaux model as you can get with the variety, bravo!
This is another estate on the innovative Otros Vinos list.
ANDI FAUSTO (Lombardy, Italy)
These wines were something very different, and another producer who garnered diverse opinions from those I spoke to. I was at one with the person who had recommended I try them. I admire people who go their own way, and for this reason I am going to recommend you at least try some of these admittedly high alcohol, concentrated, wines. Wines for meditation, undoubtedly.
The Fausto vineyards are near Pavia, so around 50km south of Milan and east of Piemonte, in the region of Oltrepò Pavese. Winemaking is based on long macerations, making wines intended for extended ageing. It is easy to bandy around phrases like “unique”, and I’ve done so for individual wines even in this article. But I’m including the wines of Andi Fausto here because the whole range fits the bill.
Ardito 2015 was my intro, a blend of Barbera, Bonarda and others with a whole year skin maceration. A big, concentrated wine with 15.5% abv, and the power of an Amarone, albeit from different grapes. Ascaro 2015 is more of the same, if a degree less alcoholic, and 100% Barbera.
Estro 2016 comes in at a whopping 16.5% alcohol (that’s what the bottle says, the tech sheet says 15.5%), though I’ll admit that on a small tasting sample it didn’t quite taste that alcoholic. It’s made from Moradella, Croa (Croatina?), Vermiglio and Uva Della Cascina, fermented (fermented!) for 12 months in oak.
Sottosera 2016 is a Barbera Riserva, produced only in “a great year”. Quite a whopper again, with 15.5% alcohol, but such sweet fruit.
Frodo 2011 (apparently no Lord of the Rings connection) is possibly my first ever 100% Moradella. This also has massive fruit, but tannin too. Built for the long haul.
Crinale 2000 was the oldest wine on show. It had fifteen years in barrel and has a palish colour, a very deep nose, and yes, I could tell it is a Pinot Nero, though you don’t get many coming in at 14.5% in Italy (California may be a better reference point). It contrasted with Originaldo 2015, not in alcohol content (identical), but in complexity, though this younger Pinot Nero wine has a lovely bouquet.
Finally Giubilo 2017. Here, I enjoyed tasting a very young sample wine made in a totally different style to the rest, a Pinot Nero ancestral method petnat which underwent no disgorgement. Pale peach skin colour, around 25g/l residual sugar at the moment. Or at least that was what I took down in my notes. The technical data I picked up describes this 2017 as a “classic method” spumante made from a blend “not disclosed by Andi”. And rather confusingly, it also states something I’ve never seen before…”there is a second disgorgement or, if requested, the bottle is left in the upside down vertical position to be degorged (sic) by the customer”. Er…?
I’ve rarely been so confused as I was by these wines. They are some of the most concentrated wines immaginable. The Pinot Noir/Nero seems to attain levels of tannin here which I’ve never come across with the variety, yet in all the wines the fruit is sweetly ripe and rich. I can fully understand the shock of some tasters, but for anyone who wishes to explore something genuinely different, this is somewhere to come. The wines were astonishing on many levels.
Andi Fausto currently has no UK representation.
OKANAGAN CRUSH PAD (Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada)
Okanagan Crush Pad produces two ranges, named “Haywire” and “Narrative”. The powerhouse team behind this venture consists of winemaker Matt Dumayne, with owners Steve Lornie and the globetrotting Christine Coletta, along with Alberto Antonini as winemaking consultant and the star soil scientist Pedro Parra on drums…I mean, er, soils.
This is another producer I’ve written about a lot, but I wanted to catch up with Christine, to find out what they are up to, and to try a few new cuvées.
Narrative Ancient Method 2016 is 100% sparkling Pinot Noir which, like many of the wines from this region, is amazingly fresh. It sees nine months on skins, yet is pale and light, with only a little texture. Love it!
Haywire Gamay is always one of my favourite Crush Pad wines. This 2016 is a very fruity varietal, given a touch of interest from its time in concrete. Concrete is used widely here for fermentation and ageing.
The Haywire Free Form wines have much more skin contact texture. My favourite is Free Form Red 2016, which is Pinot Noir having spent eight months in amphora. The nose strikes a high note, with super fruitiness underpinned with tannin and texture.
A final shout for the quite extraordinarily different Haywire Waters & Banks Sauvignon Blanc 2016. Terry Waters and Cathy Banks own the small Trout Creek Canyon Vineyard from where this cuvée comes. After fermentation in concrete tanks it undergoes malolactic before spending a period of seven months on gross lees with no racking. This wine is very concentrated, with a mixture of linear citrus acidity and herby textural notes. A lovely white wine of personality.
There’s quite a bit of planting taking place, including more Gamay, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, but also Chenin Blanc, which Christine says she’s really very excited about. I can’t wait to try it in a few years. Red Squirrel is the lucky importer.
UENO GOURMET SAKE (Japan)
Ueno Gourmet sells premium sake via its online shop, www.japan-gourmet.com and they had a range of sake to taste. Having tried a good selection of different styles of sake in Japan, I was surprised at the variety here. There was straight, clean and soft through to sake of great intensity. There was a sweetish sparkling sake, an amazing red sake (made from unpolished red rice), one called “Dreamy Clouds” which was indeed cloudy and quite ethereal, and then something the like of which I’d never come across, although I’m told it is common – sake flavoured with yuzu fruit.
The red sake was Kameman Red Rice, in the Junmai category, fruity with mild acidity and a medium-sweet flavour. The “yuzu” was technically a liqueur made by Fukuju. It has a high proportion of fresh fruit, and is light and clean but also intensely fruity. It still manages 14% abv. The slight bitterness of the yuzu comes through. I’d love both of these, the former to drink with food and the latter as an aperitif. Ueno Gourmet suggests using it as a base for cocktails or sorbets, the latter being a particularly tempting suggestion.
I’m not really sure of any UK distribution other than online. The man I tasted with suggested Harvey Nichols in Knightsbridge, but I shall also return to The Japan Centre (Piccadilly) at the next opportunity. But if someone can point me to a good sake selection in the UK, and indeed to a good sake book, I’d be most grateful.